Bluffton man plans extreme 'Face Your Fears' race

gmartin@islandpacket.comAugust 11, 2012 

The Tough Mudder is a 10- to 12-mile obstacle course, designed by British Special Forces to test physical endurance and mental toughness.

Competitors must climb walls, run across burning coals and withstand occasional electric jolts.

Thomas Viljac has an even more extreme vision for a two-day event he's organizing, called Face Your Fears, to be held in early 2013 at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton.

"This will be like a Tough Mudder on steroids," he promises.

The Bluffton developer and entrepreneur is forming a nonprofit organization, which will disburse the race's revenue to charities benefiting military families.

"I thought it was a great way to give back to those guys who don't ask nothing of anybody, and they never will," he said. "They are, in my mind, above and beyond the typical definition of a patriot."

He expects many service members to participate in the event, which he hopes will feature a fighter-jet fly-over. He predicts attendance of 3,000 to 5,000 the first year.

The entry fee will be about $135, he said. Competitors can enter individually or in teams.

Viljac, an Army veteran who soon will complete his fourth Tough Mudder, says participants can expect an assortment of obstacles similar to those he has encountered.

"All I can tell you is, it will involve fire and ice, mud and water," he says. He added that trained medical personnel will be on hand to treat competitors who need it.

Viljac said he's thrilled to boast Palmetto Bluff as the race's venue. The inn at the upscale community along the May River was named the best hotel in the country this year by U.S. News & World Report.

"People are going to look that place up on the Internet and see how gorgeous it is and come from all around," he said. "Hopefully, they'll see how close it is to Hilton Head and bring their families."

Troy Lucas, vice president of land development for the resort, said his property was an ideal venue for Viljac's vision.

"We're excited to host it," he said. "There's so much property here that it seemed like a natural fit."

He added he's still working with Viljac to determine a date for the race, but expects it will be in either January or February.

To accommodate out-of-town racers, Viljac is working with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce to secure discounted rates at area hotels.

Susan Thomas, chamber vice president, said the chamber would promote the event online.

"We're very supportive of this," she said, adding she began collaborating with Viljac several months ago. "The adventure travel segment is just a niche. ... This puts Bluffton's location on the beautiful May River to good use."

Viljac sees his event as more than just a boost to the local economy during a sluggish time of year.

"I want to light a fire in people," he says. "I want to get them to ask, 'How much do I want to challenge myself?'"

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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